I was reading the news on my mobile after getting back from uni. One story from the BBC jumped out at me and grabbed me by the testies.
“Ministers ‘consider alternatives’ to 5.2% benefits rise”
The full report can be read here, but I’ll post some excepts with the first thing that came into my head.
Ministers are considering alternatives to an inflation-linked rise to benefits, government sources have said.
Benefits are due to go up by 5.2% from next April, in line with September’s inflation figures.
Right, let’s break this down, I’ll be looking at this from the mental health nursing angle. According to wikipedia inflation is:
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time. When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a loss of real value in the internal medium of exchange and unit of account in the economy.
According to the BBC again, inflation for both the Retail Prices Index (RPI) and Consumer Prices Index (CPI) are both 5.2%. As this is a positive number, I’ll assume that prices are increasing at 5.2% per month because that’s both the period data are collected for and frequency of release.
But the government is worried about the cost of such hikes and the impact on public opinion given the current low wage increases. Fair one; everyone would like a bit more money in their pocket, and it’s true that people are feeling the pinch.
Earlier in the article they say that “It is not thought that any change to the planned 5.2% rise in pensions is being considered”. What happened to us all being in this together? Is this another case of the deserving and undeserving poor? Not that I’m advocating that we freeze pensioners, but what about the mentally ill? increasing age is associated with an increased propensity to vote Conservative, so would the government shoot themselves in the foot? Doubtful.
Scoring opinion points on the backs of people who can’t find jobs or are unable to work is quite frankly abhorrent. Our wonderful deputy PM, Nick Clegg, said the government will “not balance the books on the backs of the poor”, I’m not sure how much I trust this. Okay, the figure quoted in this article are from The Institute of Fiscal Studies (The IFS). They have calculated that the 5.2% September inflation figure will add £1.8bn to welfare spending over the next year. From the article again:
It [the IFS]said freezing all benefits and pensions would save about £10bn and linking benefits increases to wage rises would save £5bn.
A further option of switching from the September inflation figure to an average inflation figure calculated over six months could save about £1.4bn, the IFS added.
Will this be the governments solution? People with severe mental illness that I know receive higher rate care and lower rate mobility for DLA, this adds up to a grand total of £93.15 per week. Not a lot to live on when, according to Rentright.com, the average monthly rent for a one bedroom property is £852 per month!
No one can deny that some form of occupation can be therapeutic for most people, but according to patient.co.uk
Those with low incomes are more likely to suffer from poor mental health and poverty effectively causing or contributing to poor mental health. Observationally, both individual and neighbourhood deprivation increase the risk of poor general and mental health. The rates of admission for acute psychiatric care tend to be higher in deprived areas.
This seems pretty to the point, and brings me back to the BBC article. What oversight will the government put into place to ensure that some the most vulnerable members of society aren’t pushed further into poverty to make up a budget short fall? Well, according to Nick Clegg we won’t know because he isn’t going to “provide a running commentary on decisions and debates which haven’t even been held in government yet”. Okay, Nick, but again how are we meant to trust you?
What this report really makes me think of are the lyrics to Head Like a Hole by Nine Inch Nails
God money’s not looking for the cure.
God money’s not concerned about the sick among the pure.
God money let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised.
The god of money’s not one to choose